Fiction: In the Space Between Our Houses

It seemed as though they had emerged from a tunnel. The overhanging trees thinned to nothing, and suddenly they were under the open sky, and the causeway was a flat ribbon before them. Puddles from the earlier storm reflected a sliver of moon.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t see it in the daylight,” Adam said.

Bonnie smiled and crumpled an empty candy wrapper in her hand. “Plenty of time for that. Besides, I sort of like it. Seems like we’re driving off the end of the earth.”

“The WalMart a couple miles back kinda spoils that illusion,” Adam pointed out, and Bonnie laughed. In the glow from the headlights, they could just begin to make out the dark speck of tree-choked land ahead, suspended like a lily pad on a black expanse of water.

The lights of the houses between the trees had just begun to come into view when there was a vague movement just past the far right edge of the headlights’ cone. “Was that a deer?” Bonnie said.

“It looked like a person.” Adam stopped the car and shifted into reverse. The darkness behind them was like an enormous hole.

“Huh. Why are they walking out here in the rain? Maybe they broke down somewhere.”

“We’d better make sure. They could be hurt or something.”

Adam backed up and stopped, and Bonnie rolled down her window and peered into the night. “I don’t see anyone,” she said.

He leaned across her lap and squinted. “Oh, there, look. I backed up too far.” He inched the car forward until they could both see a slight figure, clad in a dark jacket and pants, walking very slowly along the rocky shoulder.

“Hey, hi,” Adam called. “Everything all right? Do you need a lift somewhere?”

The figure turned toward them, and in the reflected moonlight they could make out the pale, round face of a girl, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties, with curly dark hair partially tucked beneath the hood of her jacket. She smiled. “Oh, hi. No, I’m all right. Just heading back.”

“You live on the island?” Bonnie asked.

“Not really. Just visiting.” She was swaying a little as she stood there, and Bonnie wondered if she was drunk.

“Hop in, we can drop you off. It’s pretty wet out here,” said Adam.

“Really, that’s okay. I like being out. Besides, I don’t want to attract any attention coming back.” She laughed then, a soft warble like the coo of a bird.

“You sure?” Adam said. “We’re heading that way and it’s no trouble.”

“Thanks, but I’ll make it. You’re Adam and Bonnie, right?”

The couple in the car exchanged surprised glances. “How did you know that?” Bonnie said.

The girl shrugged. “Just heard you were coming.”

“Notorious already, I guess,” Adam said. “What’s your name?”

“Marie. I should really get back, though.”

Bonnie leaned farther out of her window. “I feel bad just leaving you on the side of the road.” She could barely make out the girl’s features; her eyes were mere glints beneath her hood. The swaying seemed to have intensified, and Bonnie noticed Marie’s head shift ever so slightly toward the island, as though she was eager to be on the move.

“I don’t have far to go.”

“Well, maybe we’ll see you around,” Adam said, relaxing back into the driver’s seat.

“You may. But you didn’t see me this time, okay?” She laughed her bird laugh again.

“Your secret’s safe with us,” said Bonnie. The car pulled away, and she watched in her side mirror as the girl’s figure receded into the distance. After a few seconds it seemed as though the darkness had swallowed her.


Adam, clad only in boxer shorts and a loose black t-shirt, padded out onto the patio in his bare feet, a mug of coffee in each hand. Bonnie took one from him and smiled as he sat down in the rattan chair next to hers. “You’re right, I guess it is prettier in the daytime,” she said.

Finch Island was an island only in name. A mere scrap of rock in the middle of a small lake, its five houses had once been part of a single compound owned by the industrialist Finch family in the early twentieth century. The house that Adam and Bonnie had rented for the week was on the end of the island farthest from the causeway, and had once been a guest-house for the Finch family’s servants. The back patio afforded a mist-softened view of the opposite mainland, less than a mile distant.

“I think I’m in vacation mode already,” Adam said, extending his long legs and propping his feet on the patio railing.

“Nice for you,” Bonnie said, poking him in the ribs.

“Don’t stress, Bon, you’ll get it. Interview’s not until tomorrow, so let’s just forget about it and relax for the day. Maybe explore the island later.”

“I’d like that. Shame we can’t afford to buy this place, it’s quiet out here.”

“Well, if you get that job, maybe we can talk. But meantime, just enjoy it while we’re here. Even if we did buy it, you’d be sick of the commute inside of a day.” He reached over and stroked her cheek with his finger.

“I know. And the quiet would drive me crazy.” She laughed and sipped her coffee as she stared across the water. “I wonder if we’ll meet any of the neighbors while we’re here.”

“God, I hope not. You know how people are when they live on tiny islands, always sticking their noses into their neighbors’ business. I just wanted to have a peaceful week with you and copious amounts of alcohol and sex.”

“Oh, we’ll make that happen, neighbors be damned,” Bonnie said with a grin. After a moment, she went thoughtful again. “I hope Marie got home all right,” she said.

“I guess she knew where she was going,” said Adam. “Probably just snuck out to see her boyfriend or something and trying to get back in the house without her parents seeing her.”

“Probably.” Bonnie finished off her coffee and unfurled from her chair, stretching like a cat. “Let’s get dressed and take a walk around before it gets too warm.”


It took less than forty-five minutes to make a circuit of the entire island, and in that time they saw not a single other soul. The other four houses were arranged in a rough horseshoe pattern, though little could be seen of the actual structures through the thick foliage. Often the only way to tell there was a house among the trees was the presence of a driveway and a neat silver mailbox.

It was at one of these mailboxes, at the house next door to theirs, that they spotted their first permanent island inhabitant, in the form of a short blonde woman with a pert upturned nose and a spray of freckles across her tanned cheeks. She stood at the end of her driveway, mail in hand, and watched them approach. “I wondered when you’d be arriving,” she said when they were close enough to hear her. “I’d heard you were coming yesterday.”

“We got hung up in the storm on the way here,” Adam said, already extending his hand as he walked. “We got in late last night. Adam Powell, and this is my wife Bonnie.”

“Nice to meet you. Deb Muller, and my husband Jim is around somewhere. How do you like Finch Island so far?”

“It’s beautiful,” Bonnie said. “I almost wish we were staying longer than a week.”

“Well, it’s like anywhere else, different when you live here. Jim and I have only been here six months, and he loves it, but it’s also kind of…” She waved the hand containing her mail around in a circle. “I don’t know. Isolating, maybe. Hey, you two want to come in for some tea or lunch or something? I made a ton of chicken salad and I can’t give the stuff away.”

Adam squeezed Bonnie’s hand as if to say, Uh oh, it’s started already, but then he said, “Sure. We can’t stay long, though.”

“Oh, I know, I know. I don’t mean to intrude on your vacation or anything, but I haven’t seen any new people in months, you understand.” She began to retreat up the driveway, her sandals flopping against her heels. “I’ll only keep you long enough for a sandwich and some gossip, I promise.”

Adam and Bonnie exchanged a smile and an eye-roll and followed Deb to the house.


Tea soon gave way to wine, even though the sun still hung high above the horizon. “Fuck it,” said Deb as she poured a second large glass for herself and one for Bonnie. Adam declined a refill.

“I’m not really sure what it is,” Deb was saying, taking a bite from her sandwich and licking her fingers. “Things have been weird since we moved here.”

“Weird how?” Bonnie asked. She had finished her sandwich and now sat raptly with her elbows on the tabletop.

“I don’t know. Jim is acting sort of strange. I’ve talked to the others—that’s Jillian and Sue, they’ve lived on the island longer than we have. They told me the same thing, that their husbands went weird a little while ago. And then, on top of that, there’s Marcus.”

“Who’s that?” Adam asked.

Deb took a generous slug from her wine glass. “He’s the freak who lives in that small house, out nearest the causeway. You probably wouldn’t have seen him. I shouldn’t pick on him because he’s sort of pitiful, but he’s really the worst.”

Bonnie leaned in closer. Her eyes were slightly glassy. “Worst?”

“God, he’s just a kid really. I don’t think he’s any more than nineteen or so. I think he’s sort of…retarded? Can I say that? Not like retarded retarded, but you know. Slow. Plus he has something wrong with his face. No one sees him much; he just stays in that house most of the time. I think he’s tried to skeeve on every woman on the island at some point or another, always mooning around. Sue said he was peeking in her windows once, like a pervert. Jillian told me he was bad before, but he’s gotten a lot bolder since his parents died. He seems harmless, but ugh.” She shuddered.

“How did the parents die?” Adam was sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed.

“Some kind of boat accident I think. About a year ago.”

Bonnie finished off her wine. “And the people who lived in our house?”

Deb waved a dismissive hand. “They were old, lived here since the Big Bang probably. They died about a month back, both on the same day. Heart attacks I guess. Happens that way with old couples sometimes, doesn’t it?”

“They died in our house?” Bonnie’s lip curled.

“Yeah, but what can you do? At least one person’s probably died in every house on the island. Like I said, they were old. Their ghosts wouldn’t cause you much trouble, I wouldn’t think.” She snorted laughter, and after a moment, both Adam and Bonnie joined in.

When the mirth had subsided, a brief silence prompted Adam to rise from his seat. “Well, thanks very much for lunch and for the company. We should probably be getting back. Bonnie’s got an interview tomorrow and I expect she wants to get prepared for it.” He glanced at his wife encouragingly.

Bonnie rose too. “Yeah, I really should start getting my shit together. Thanks so much for everything.”

“And hey, we’d really like it if you and your husband came and had dinner with us tomorrow night. To return the favor,” Adam said.

Deb raised her empty glass at him. “Sure, I’d love that. Just give me a shout about the time.”

“No problem.” Adam and Bonnie made their way toward the door, and Deb followed a few steps behind, wavering a little on her feet.

From below them, there came an odd creaking sound, and then a faint scuttle. Adam stopped and turned. “What was that?”

“Lord knows,” Deb replied. “Rats, more than likely. Or Jim might be creeping around in the basement for some reason. Never can tell what he’s up to.” Her expression darkened for a second, but it passed quickly.

“Well, thanks again.” Bonnie opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. Adam followed, but then Bonnie paused.

“Maybe I shouldn’t say anything, but do you know a girl named Marie? Young, pretty, dark curly hair?”

Deb tilted her head. “Doesn’t ring a bell. She doesn’t live on the island.”

“Well, it was nothing, really. We just saw her on the causeway on the night we got here. She told us she was visiting.” As she spoke, Adam’s hand crept into hers and he squeezed it tightly.

“Huh. I don’t know who that could have been. Unless Marcus is hiding a girlfriend over there. Not bloody likely.” Another snort.

“Anyway. Well, we’ll see you tomorrow.” Bonnie smiled and stepped off the porch, Adam close behind her.

“See you then,” said Deb, and closed the door with a definitive slam.


Bonnie glanced at Adam’s reflection behind her in the mirror. “Hair up or down?” she asked.

“You look great either way.” He laughed when she narrowed her eyes at him. “Okay, down.”

Minutes later, Bonnie was picking her purse up off the bed and smoothing her blouse. “Presentable?”

“More than. You’ll do fine.”

“That’s what I keep telling myself. Don’t get into too much trouble while I’m gone.”

“I won’t. I think I’m just gonna prep some stuff for dinner and then chill on the patio with a beer.”

“Sounds good. See you soon and I can join you.”

“Yep. Break a leg. Love you, Bon.” He kissed her on the cheek.

“Back atcha.”

Adam watched from the window and waved as Bonnie backed the car out of the driveway. The house quickly took on a strange stillness without his wife in it, he noticed. It felt watchful. He wasn’t sure he liked it.

Shrugging the feeling off, he went into the kitchen and found a cutting board in one of the cabinets. He idly wondered if it had belonged to the old couple who had died in the house, then chastised himself for being so morbid. The silence was already beginning to get to him, he supposed. He pulled his phone from his pocket, put on some music, and rested the phone on the counter while he worked.

He wasn’t sure how long it had been before he began to notice another sound, underpinning the music. He stopped chopping and reached over to turn off the phone.

At first he heard nothing, but then it came again. A soft, creaking sound, similar to the one they’d heard at Deb’s house the day before. It was coming from somewhere below him.

He put down the knife and took a few steps toward the living room. The creaking was louder now, more distinct. A regular sound, like footsteps. Adam turned and picked the knife back up, feeling slightly ridiculous. Even though the kitchen was warm, with lake-filtered sunlight pouring in the windows, he was suddenly shivering.

He peered around the corner into the living room, the palm of his hand slick on the knife handle. A million thoughts coursed through his head, of ghostly old people, of the infamous Marcus, of island folk and their strange ways. The living room was empty, but there was a definite heaviness there, as of a presence somewhere, just unseen. The creaking was growing closer.

“Jesus, fuck this,” Adam said, and stomped into the living room. “Who is that?”

The creaking stopped. The silence stretched out so long that Adam was beginning to think he had imagined it, although the feeling of a presence lingered.

He was on the verge of turning around and chalking it all up to nerves when he caught a movement in the shadows. There was someone in the hall on the other side of the living room. Beads of sweat popped out all over his body. He raised the knife.

A face peered slowly around the corner of the doorway. The face was pale, and framed with curly dark hair.

Adam’s breath caught in his throat. He squinted into the dimness. “Marie?”

She stepped fully out into the doorway. She wasn’t wearing a jacket this time, and he could see her face much more clearly. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen years old. She was wearing a dark blue dress that scooped low in the front and fell to just above her knees. Adam noticed that her feet were bare and dirty. She looked at him and smiled, shy and uncertain. “Hi again,” she said.

Adam was so surprised to see her that he hadn’t even lowered the knife. “How did you get in here?”

She shrugged, as if the question didn’t concern her. The expression on her face was completely serene.

“Are you all right? Do you need help?” Adam finally realized that he was standing in the middle of the living room brandishing a weapon, and lowered his arm. He felt his face redden.

“No. I just thought I’d come see you.”

The whole experience was beginning to take on an aspect of the surreal, and for a moment Adam wondered if he was dreaming. “Why?”

Marie shrugged again, and her smile grew wider. She took a step forward into the room. Her footsteps creaked on the wooden floorboards.

Adam wasn’t sure what to say, or how to process what was happening. “You…shouldn’t be in here.”

She took another step towards him. “Why not? Your wife isn’t here, is she?”

“How did you know that? What are you talking about?” He could feel the sweat beginning to trickle down his back in cold rivulets, but the room itself seemed to have grown warmer. The juxtaposition was beginning to make him dizzy and slightly ill.

She came toward him, her steps slow and deliberate. Her curls bounced around her face. “You were so nice to me when I first saw you,” she said, and her head tilted to one side. Her eyes were wide and amused, but there was something strange behind them. Or rather, something missing. They looked empty.

“Marie, I think…maybe you have the wrong idea.” He backed up a step without even realizing he was doing it.

“I’ll go away if you want me to,” she purred, but she kept moving closer. She raised her hand and extended her fingers toward him.

Adam’s heart was pounding so loudly that he thought everyone on the island must be able to hear it. Her hand was only six inches from his chest now, and he realized that her fingernails were ragged, with dirt crusted beneath them. The odd sight snapped him out of whatever bizarre spell her presence had put him under. He took a definitive step back and half-raised the knife again. “Yes. Please go.”

She stopped, her hand still extended, as if pleading. Her smile vanished, and in its place appeared an expression so pitiful that Adam’s heart lurched. “I thought you liked me,” Marie said in the voice of a child denied a parent’s affection. “I’m going to be in such trouble.”

“From who?” She seemed so lost that Adam’s resolve faltered.

Marie didn’t answer. She just dropped her gaze from his and sighed. “I may come back,” she said, almost to herself, and before Adam could say another word, she had spun on her heel and run back into the hallway from which she had emerged.

“Wait!” He started after her, following the creaking of her footsteps, but she was fast, and had disappeared down the basement stairs before he could catch her. He had a moment to wonder whether she had been in the basement of the house the entire time they’d been here before he went wheeling down the dark stairs after her, almost losing his footing in the unfamiliar darkness. “Marie! Stop!”

He reached the bottom of the stairs, his breath heaving and echoing in the hollow space. He thought he heard another creak, and then came a muted bang, as of a door being closed. He called out to her again, but only silence greeted him. Swearing, he began casting about for the basement walls to find a light switch, scrabbling across the concrete. His toe met something hard and unyielding, and he howled with pain. At last a switch materialized under his searching fingers, and he flipped it savagely.

In the watery light from the single overhead bulb, he saw a large square space littered with rotting boxes and old furniture. He turned in a complete circle, peering into all the shadowed corners, barely aware of the knife he still held in his hand. He saw no door, no place the girl could have gone. Nevertheless, the basement was clearly deserted, and the sensation of her presence had dissipated.

“Shit.” Adam stood still in the middle of the basement for what seemed an eternity, listening. He heard nothing but the faraway lap of waves upon the lakeshore, amplified by the bedrock around him.

At last, he turned and headed back up the stairs.


When Bonnie came home from her interview, she found the kitchen clean, and chopped vegetables in plastic containers stacked neatly in the refrigerator in preparation for dinner. Adam was nowhere to be seen. She put her purse down on the counter. “Baby? You home?”

His voice came to her from what seemed a great distance. “On the patio.”

Immediately sensing something was wrong, she went through the bedroom toward the sliding glass doors, her pumps clicking across the floor. Adam was sitting in one of the patio chairs, his bare feet resting on the railing. Five empty beer bottles stood like sentinels on the table next to him.

She opened the door and leaned out. “Adam? Are you all right?”

He turned to her and smiled. His face was paper-white beneath a thin film of stubble. “So how did it go?”

“It went fine, Adam, but what happened? You look sick.” She approached him and put the back of her hand to his forehead. His skin was clammy at her touch, and she thought she could feel him trembling.

He laughed, a nervous bark. “I’m not sure what happened. It’s been a weird day.”

Bonnie glanced at the beer bottles again and sat down in the chair beside him, leaning forward to look him fully in the face. Her hand crept into his lap and she laced her fingers through his. He gripped her hand as though he was afraid she wasn’t real. “Tell me,” she said.

He looked at her. His eyes were damp and rheumy from the alcohol, but otherwise he seemed completely lucid. “Either we have a girl hiding out in our basement, or this house is haunted,” he said.


“I can still tell Deb and Jim not to come tonight,” Bonnie said. She was standing at the stove stir-frying the vegetables while Adam stood at the bar behind her, opening the wine.

“No, it’s all right. Maybe having more people around will make things seem more normal.” He had told her exactly what had happened, and though she had understood the strange otherworldliness of the incident as he conveyed it, she was still convinced that a rational explanation would soon appear.

“That girl seemed a little weird when we first saw her on the causeway,” Bonnie was saying now, being careful to temper her words so that they didn’t sound as though she was discounting his feelings. “Didn’t you think?”

The cork of the wine bottle popped, and Bonnie jumped, almost dropping the spatula. “Yeah,” he said. “But that’s the thing, what was she doing walking out there in the dark that night? Where did she go afterward? And I still don’t know how she just showed up in the house today and disappeared when I ran after her. She looked so strange, Bon.”

Bonnie glanced over her shoulder at him. He seemed to have calmed down, though he was still a touch pale. “We’re not familiar with the place,” she pointed out. “Maybe there’s a way in through the basement. And this girl gets her jollies sneaking into people’s houses and scaring them half to death.”

“Maybe that’s all it is,” he said, without much conviction. He went to the cabinet and got out four wine glasses. “Do you need any help with that?” Adam was obviously done talking about the girl for the time being, and Bonnie’s heart ached for him. The experience had clearly rattled him much more than he was letting on. There was still one more question she had to ask on the subject, though.

“Should we ask Deb and Jim about it?”

He didn’t answer at first; he just crossed the kitchen and placed the wine glasses on the bar. “I’d rather not,” he finally said.

“All right. They’ll be here in a few minutes, so I guess we can start setting the table.”

Adam returned to the cabinet and began retrieving plates and silverware. Bonnie slid the stir-fry into a dish next to the stove, and when she had finished, she looked up at him. He smiled, plates in hand, and kissed the top of her head. Marie was not mentioned for the remainder of the evening.


Full dark had fallen outside the windows, and the ever-present sound of moving water punctuated the dinner conversation, which had veered from one mundane topic to another until enough wine had been consumed to loosen tongues to some degree. Jim, who neither Bonnie nor Adam had met previously, seemed pleasant enough, though oddly distracted all through the meal. “I thought it was a bit isolated here at first,” he was saying, steering a forkful of broccoli towards his mouth. “I got used to it pretty fast, though. I can’t imagine living anywhere else now.”

Deb gave him a sidelong look that he failed to notice. She was already on her third glass of wine. “If it wasn’t for all the money we poured into this place, I think I’d eventually like to move back to the city,” she said. Jim didn’t seem to have heard her, and Bonnie saw a brief scowl cross the woman’s face, there and then gone.

Adam had noticed the wordless exchange too, and quickly changed the subject. “So is the lake safe to swim in? It looked so nice and refreshing this morning that I was thinking of taking a dip one of these days.”

Deb seemed glad of the distraction. “It’s a little cold at this time of year, and the bottom is all gunky. Not my cup of tea, but it’s not riddled with pestilence or anything. Go for it.”

“It’s very deep in places, though,” Jim added, intensely focused on the plate before him. “That couple that lived out by the causeway drowned in there. Before our time, of course. I think it was sometime last summer. But the others told me about it.”

Bonnie sighed. It seemed as though every tendril of conversation was going to spiral toward the macabre sooner or later tonight, and she felt powerless to prevent it. Perhaps the island had that effect. “How did they drown?” If you can’t beat them, might as well join them, Bonnie thought grimly.

“Boat overturned, that’s all. They were too far from the shore to swim back, and the water was deep. They weren’t spring chickens, I hear.”

“Didn’t they call for help?” Adam still had half a plate of food before him, but Bonnie noticed that he was no longer eating, just pushing the vegetables around with his fork.

“I would imagine so. Sound doesn’t carry that far on the water, though, I guess. Maybe no one heard them. I don’t really know much about it.”

Bonnie turned to Deb, who was staring hard into her wine glass. “This was Marcus’s parents?” Bonnie said.

Deb’s gaze flicked up as though she was snapping out of a trance. “Oh…yeah. Hell of a thing, leaving that boy to fend for himself.” She smirked. “Though I suppose he’s doing all right, considering.”

An awkward silence fell over the table then, and everyone went back to concentrating on their food and drink. After a few endless minutes, Adam rose from his chair. “If you’re done, you can hand the plates over. We’ve got carrot cake and some fresh coffee if anyone wants it.”

“I would,” Deb said, half standing. “Need help with anything, or…?”

“No, we’ve got it,” said Bonnie. She stood and collected Deb’s plate, which had been scraped nearly clean. “Jim? Cake and coffee?”

“Sure, sounds good.”

Bonnie followed Adam into the kitchen. They didn’t speak to each other as they prepared the desserts and poured the steaming mugs. They didn’t have to talk; each knew what the other was thinking.

When they returned to the dining room, it was clear that Jim and Deb had not spoken either, but for quite different reasons. Bonnie felt a knot in her stomach, wondering if this had all been a mistake but determined not to let the uncomfortable vibe spoil the evening, or the remainder of their vacation. “Here we are,” she said, a little too brightly, and set the plates and mugs in front of their guests.

Jim made polite noises as he dug into his dessert, and Deb repeated them, smiling tightly. Bonnie suddenly felt a wave of pity for the woman, and gave her a genuine smile in return, trying to communicate her feelings with her eyes. Deb seemed to understand and appreciate the gesture, nodding slightly as she sipped her coffee.

After they had eaten and made a few more halfhearted attempts at conversation, Jim stretched theatrically and reached for the sweater that he’d hung on the back of his chair. “I should probably be getting Deb home to bed. She’s had a few over her limit, I think.”

“I’m fine, Jim. We should stay and help them clean up.”

“Oh, please don’t bother with that,” Adam said. “You guys must be tired.”

“Yeah, exhausted. Plus I still have some things to do when I get home. This was fantastic, though, thanks for having us over. Maybe we can return the favor before you two leave.”

“That would be nice,” Bonnie said, hoping it didn’t sound too insincere. Another evening in the presence of the Mullers wasn’t a very appealing prospect at the moment, though of course she would endure it for politeness’s sake if she had to. She had the distinct feeling she wouldn’t have to, though.

“Upsy daisy,” said Jim, gripping his wife’s arm and pulling her up. Deb made a face and was obviously about to make a sharp remark, but refrained with a visible effort.

“Everything was really good. Thank you.” Deb was slightly unsteady on her feet, and allowed herself to be steered toward the front door, leaning away from her husband as she walked. Adam and Bonnie followed close behind them, exchanging a glance.

When Jim and Deb were outside on the porch, Deb turned. “Don’t be a stranger,” she said, looking at Bonnie and then at Adam with something like longing. Another wrench of pity clutched at Bonnie’s chest, and she placed her hand on Adam’s back, stroking at his shirt with her fingers.

“We won’t,” Bonnie said, and meant it.


They left the dishes in the sink to be dealt with in the morning, and went to bed early, eyelids heavy with wine. The sex was slow but urgent, and afterwards, Adam fell into a fitful sleep while Bonnie lay awake, tucked into the crook of his arm and staring out of the glass doors at the moon-glimmering water.

The red numbers on the clock read two-nineteen and Bonnie still felt jittery and supernaturally alert. Part of it was the strange experience they’d had at dinner, and Adam’s encounter with Marie, and the job interview she was sure she had aced; but she didn’t think that was all of it. There seemed to be a sort of weight on the air, as of expectation, of impending arrival. She shivered and nestled in closer to Adam. Maybe his theory about a haunting wasn’t so farfetched after all, though she chided herself for entertaining the idea. Whatever the explanation for the occurrences was, she thought, one thing was certain: Even if she got the job, she wouldn’t be petitioning to purchase this house, or any other on the island. It was not a hostile place, she felt, but one tainted by bitterness, loneliness, secrecy.

Another half an hour passed in this limbo state, until finally Bonnie felt as though she might be close to dozing off. But it also seemed as if something outside herself was preventing her from doing so. Something wanted her to wait. This was ludicrous, she knew, but the sensation persisted. Grumpily, she squeezed her eyes shut, only to have them snap open again a moment later when she thought she heard a furtive sound from somewhere outside the bedroom window.

She sat up. Adam rolled over and mumbled in his sleep, but didn’t wake. Bonnie stayed very still and listened. She wasn’t exactly afraid, not yet, but all of her senses had sharpened.

The sound was repeated, a soft rustle and a crack, like movement through a hedge. It was probably just an animal, she thought, someone’s pet scrounging around in the underbrush outside. Carefully, she slid out of bed and went to the glass doors, checking to make sure the lock was engaged and the wooden brace wedged into the track. She looked out across the balcony railing, seeing nothing but treetops and shoreline.

She stood there so long that Adam was awakened by her absence. “Bon? What’s the matter?” he asked in a sleep-fuzzed voice.
“I thought I heard something out there. I guess it was just an animal.”

“Come back to bed.”

She turned to comply, suddenly cold and intensely aware of her nakedness.

There, in the small circular window set into the wall above the headboard, she saw a terrible face staring back at her. She barely had time to register its presence and open her mouth to speak when it vanished into the night. There was another brief rustling from the bushes outside, and then silence.


The next morning, Bonnie stayed in the shower much longer than usual, trying to wash away the grime of that awful gaze upon her flesh. For of course the nighttime visitor had been Marcus; who else could it have been? Deb had told them that he’d been known to lurk around, spying on the women of the island. Even though he was apparently not right in the head, and perhaps not entirely responsible for his actions, the look he had given her through the window still felt violating, polluting. She let the hot water course over her until her skin was pink and partially parboiled.

“We should leave today,” Adam said. He was frying eggs and bacon while Bonnie stood on the periphery of the kitchen in her robe, rubbing her hair vigorously with a towel. “We can spend the rest of our vacation somewhere else, maybe get a nice hotel in town.”

“It’s such a shame,” Bonnie said thoughtfully. “It’s a beautiful place. Too bad the people have to ruin it.”

“That’s the way it usually works, isn’t it?” He chuckled, sounding almost like his normal self, and slid eggs onto a plate that he then handed to his wife. “We can start packing up after breakfast, if you want. I don’t suppose we’ll get any of the rental fee back, but not much we can do about that.”

“We can stop by the realty office on the way into town, tell them what happened. Maybe they’ll give us a break.” Bonnie stuck a fork into her eggs and watched the yolk work its way slowly across her plate, like an encroachment of creeping lava. Suddenly she wasn’t hungry anymore.

“Couldn’t hurt, but I wouldn’t count on it. We’ll be all right, Bon. I know you got that job, and everything’s going to be better.”

“I know.” She didn’t know, not really. She had been so sure of herself yesterday, but everything that happened after she got home had her questioning herself, scrutinizing every detail.

When the breakfast dishes had been washed and put away, they dressed quickly and began gathering their things. They hadn’t brought much, but it still took the better part of an hour, perhaps because they were both, on some level, reluctant to leave. Bonnie couldn’t imagine why this would be, but she knew Adam felt it too. It was in the way he moved like someone in the throes of a beguiling dream. Maybe it was just that feeling of disappointment, of wanting to salvage the relaxing holiday they’d planned despite the setbacks, but Bonnie thought there might be another reason, something to do with unfinished business, of mysteries still unsolved. Things about the island nagged at her like a persistent itch.

Bonnie went to the kitchen to retrieve the remaining food items and wine they wanted to take back, and Adam hefted their two suitcases and carried them out to the car. The day was spectacular, cool but bright, and Adam felt another twinge as he glanced out at the water and thought of powering his way through the waves, feeling the icy droplets sloughing across his skin. The pleasant vision soon darkened, though, as he remembered Jim’s words about the drowning, and helplessly pictured a rotting and algae-spotted hand reaching up from the depths to close around his ankle. Frowning, he threw the cases into the trunk and slammed it shut.

“Not leaving already, are you?” It was a man’s voice, and one he didn’t recognize. “I hadn’t even had the chance to meet you yet.”

Adam turned and saw a round-faced, balding man making his way up the drive with a basket swinging from one hand. “Something came up and we’re cutting the vacation short, unfortunately. Adam Powell.”

“Frank Klasky. Jillian’s husband.”

“Oh, right. We haven’t met your wife either, but Deb told us about the others on the island.” The two men shook hands.

“Too bad you’re leaving so soon,” Frank said. “It’s really great here, isn’t it? Oh, these are for you. Jillian made them.” He held the basket out.

“Thanks, that’s very kind.” Adam peeked under the cloth and saw a small mountain of chocolate chip cookies. When he looked back up, Frank was staring at him with an odd intensity, as though studying him like a specimen. Adam blinked. “Um, thanks again, and thank your wife for us. You really didn’t have to give us anything.”

“Hell, not often we see new faces on the island. You’re the first since Deb and Jim moved in,” Frank said. Adam kept hoping that the man would say his goodbyes and take his leave, but he just stood there as if waiting for something.

At last Adam relented. “Do you want to come in for a minute? I think most of our stuff is packed up, but I can probably scare you up a beer.”

This seemed to be what Frank had been expecting, because he smiled broadly and clapped Adam on the back. “Sure, I can spare a minute. I know you’re probably in a rush to get going, but I just wanted to chat for a few. Just tell me if I’m being pushy.”

“Not at all. Come on inside.” With an inward sigh, Adam headed for the house with the smell of the cookies wafting up into his nostrils.

They met Bonnie in the foyer as she was going toward the front door, her arms laden with plastic grocery bags. “Oh, hi,” she said, giving Adam a quizzical look.

Adam made the introductions, and Bonnie put all the bags down next to the door, rummaging around in them until she came up with three beers. They sat at the bar, the basket of cookies before them.

“Thinking of moving here permanently?” Frank asked. He had helped himself to a handful of the cookies and was feeding them into his mouth one by one, chewing and swallowing without apparent enjoyment or distaste.

“Not to the island, no,” Bonnie said firmly. “Maybe a place in town, if I get work here.”

“I know how the island seems when you first get here.” Frank was leaning forward like a conspirator, still chewing. “I thought I was going to go batshit the first couple years. Excuse the language.” He shot Bonnie a simpering grin. “But it’s gotten a lot better. Now I can’t picture being anywhere else.”

Adam remembered Jim saying almost the exact same thing and had a moment of dislocation. Two words popped into his brain, and those two words were Stepford husbands.

Bonnie took a long pull from her beer and propped her elbow on the bar. “I just don’t think it would suit us,” she said.

“Sure, I gotcha. My wife sometimes talks about moving back, but I don’t think she’d ever do it. Women, am I right?” He raised his eyebrows at Adam, who gave him a faint smile.

“Well, we’d been wanting to get on the road while there was still plenty of daylight, so…” Bonnie stood up and threw her beer bottle in the trash. “Thanks for the cookies, that was really thoughtful.”

For a moment it seemed that Frank wasn’t going to move from his stool, and Adam had a brief second of panic, but then he got to his feet. “No problem, we like to be neighborly. Shame you couldn’t drop by the house, thank Jillian in person. She’d like that.”

Adam had the distinct impression that he was being subtly coerced, and felt his ire rising. What the hell was wrong with everyone around here? “Sorry, we’d love to, but we’re a little pressed for time. Running behind already.” He managed to keep his voice level, but it was difficult.

“Hey, no hard feelings. Look, I’ll even carry those bags out to the car for you.”

“That’s not necessary,” Bonnie said, but Frank waved a hand at her.

“I insist. Adam and me will get this stuff, and you can find something to put the cookies in, take them with you. You can eat them on the road.”

Now Bonnie was the one having to hold her tongue; she detested being ordered around, however jovially. But it seemed churlish to argue, and they’d be far away from this island soon enough, so she forced a smile. “Okay. Just put all the bags on the floor in the back, and try not to crush anything.”

When the men were outside loading the bags, Frank looked up at Adam from across the back seat. His eyes were glinting. “Have you met her yet?” His voice was a stage whisper.

Adam raised his head so suddenly that he bumped it on the ceiling upholstery. “Met who?”

“You know. Marie.”

Adam’s eyes narrowed. This whole thing was starting to feel like a set-up. “Who is she?” he asked. It seemed a neutral response.

Frank smirked. “I know you’ve seen her, I can tell from your face. She’s something, isn’t she?”

Adam wasn’t quite sure how to proceed, so he just gave a noncommittal grunt that could have been positive or negative.

Frank laughed. “It’s cool, man, I’m not going to narc on you. I know how it is. So did she just turn up the day you got here? Maybe while your wife was out of the house?”

Adam could feel his heart slamming against his ribcage, and vaguely wondered what was taking Bonnie so long. “What exactly are you talking about?” he said thinly.

“Okay, okay, if you want to be all covert about it. But that’s what Marie does for us, man. You want her, and poof. There she is. She just,” and here he made a spiderlike gesture with his outstretched fingers, “crawls out of the woodwork, so to speak.”

“I don’t understand.” Adam suddenly felt that the interior of the car was too close and hot, and he backed out of the open door and stood upright. He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue the conversation.

Frank backed out of the car too and looked at him across the roof, his face split into a smile so large it resembled the toothed maw of a jack-o-lantern. “You don’t have to understand, Adam. It’s all good. Nothing wrong with it at all.”

“But who is she?” The desperation in his voice disturbed him. The sunlight reflecting off the water blinded him for a moment, so that Frank’s face was nothing but a sparkling blur.

“Does it matter, man?” The blur resolved itself into Frank’s features again, and Adam saw that the man was still grinning at him like a vaguely malevolent idiot.

“Here are the cookies.” It was Bonnie, suddenly present beside him. Adam took the container from her hand, almost shaking with relief. “What are you guys talking about?”

“Eh, just boring guy shit, you know.” Frank slipped Adam a wink, and Adam felt his bowels clench. “Anyway, nice to meet you two. Maybe you’ll be back one day, yeah?”

“Sure. Maybe.” Adam realized he was still standing there with the cookies in his hand. He tossed the container unceremoniously onto the back seat. “Thanks again.”

“My pleasure, neighbor.” With a salute, Frank turned his substantial bulk toward the road and toddled off down the drive.

When he was out of sight, Adam took a deep breath and answered Bonnie’s unspoken question. “I think everyone on this island might be slightly insane,” he said. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”


It was the matter of fifteen minutes to finish packing everything into the car and reverse out onto the island’s only road. Adam could sense that Bonnie was waiting for him to speak, but he kept silent until the car’s tires had left the stony soil of the island and gripped the asphalt of the causeway over the water. The tunnel of trees that marked the mainland somehow seemed a long way off, even in the clear daylight.

Bonnie leaned back in her seat, casting the occasional glance toward her husband.

When he finally spoke, it was without preamble. “He asked if I’d seen Marie.”

Bonnie looked at him sharply. “And?”

“And, not much more than that. He wouldn’t really tell me anything about her. But I think he was implying…” He paused. What had Frank been implying? Was it what he thought it was, or had the whole thing just been a misinterpretation of his overwrought imagination?

“Implying what? So she is a real person, then.” Adam was surprised that Bonnie’s words held no sense of vindication, only relief. So she hadn’t been entirely sure, either.

“I don’t know. The way he talked about her…it could have gone either way. If that makes any sense.”

“It doesn’t. What did he say exactly?”

“Just that she would come when you wanted her. He said she crawled out—shit!”

He slammed the brakes on, hard, just yards from the mouth of the tunnel. Bonnie didn’t have to ask why he had done it.

The girl lay in a crumpled heap, partially on the shoulder and partially in the road. The car tire had halted a mere inches from her head.

Adam and Bonnie both jumped from the car, leaving the doors wide open. Marie moved as they approached her, groaning as if in terrible anguish. She was clad in the same short blue dress she’d been wearing on the afternoon she’d appeared in the rental house, and her feet were still bare and crusted with mud and leaves. The dress was hiked up nearly to her waist, and Adam noticed with combined arousal and horror that she was completely naked underneath.

“Please help me,” the girl whispered when they bent over her. “Take me away from here.”

“You’re going to be all right,” Bonnie said, smoothing the girl’s skirt over her thighs. “Are you hurt? Can we carry you?”

“I got away,” she said, and her head lolled on her neck. Adam was afraid she might be delirious.

“Let’s get her in the car,” he said to his wife, and slid his hands under her shoulders while Bonnie lifted her feet. “We’ll get you to a hospital, Marie, everything’s all right now.”

“Where is he? Where is he?” Marie was suddenly panicked, thrashing a little and turning her head from side to side.

“Be still, we’ve got you,” Bonnie said, though she was struggling to keep the girl in her grip. She looked helplessly at her husband.

“Where is who?” Adam tightened his hold around her shoulders, but she was as slippery as an eel, and before he could stop her, she had broken free of their grip and fallen to her knees on the asphalt. She leaped to her feet, lightning-quick, her eyes darting from side to side like a hunted animal. Her knees were scraped and oozing blood. She backed away from them, her gaze unfocused. She put her hands up, palms outward, as if to ward them off.

“What’s the matter with her, Adam?” Bonnie took a few steps toward the girl, but Marie’s muscles tensed as though she was preparing to bolt. Bonnie stopped and raised her hands in surrender. “I’m just going in the car to get my cell phone,” she said in a soothing voice that was nonetheless edged with panic. “We’re going to call an ambulance.”

Marie seemed to consider this. Adam was watching her face and her body language as she stood there, and very slowly, a strange calm began to descend over her. Her muscles relaxed, the hysteria in her eyes subsided. It was almost as though someone had slipped her a sedative that was overtaking her, inch by inch. Bonnie paused on her way to the car, unsure of what was happening.

“It’s okay,” Marie said. That empty, serene expression Adam had seen earlier returned to her face. “Everything is all right again.”

“I’m still calling the ambulance,” Bonnie said, and moved toward the open car door.

“I wouldn’t,” called a thick male voice. Adam, Bonnie, and Marie all turned in unison.

He was ambling up the causeway, hands in his pockets. Even though she had only glimpsed him briefly through a window in the middle of the night, Bonnie immediately recognized his oddly lopsided features, his obsidian-black eyes embedded in their doughy white sockets. Marcus.

“There’s nothing the matter with her. She just has…what do you call them? Episodes.” Each word that came out of his mouth was a perfectly articulated, deliberate sound, as though he was speaking a foreign language. Bonnie immediately saw why Deb had called him slow, but the look in his eyes and the way he carried himself suggested the opposite.

“What’s wrong with her?” Bonnie was halfway between Adam and her cell phone, and her gaze flickered back and forth nervously.

“She knows she’s not supposed to be out here,” Marcus said, which wasn’t really an answer. “She might hurt herself.” As he spoke, he walked up beside the girl and put a hand on her arm. Adam took a step forward, unsure of whether he should protect her, but Marie just looked over at Marcus adoringly and stayed still.

“What’s going on here?” Adam’s breath was ragged.

“Nothing that’s any of your business,” Marcus said. It wasn’t said in a threatening way, but a cold finger of fear still shuddered up Adam’s spine.

“Adam, let’s just go,” Bonnie said. “He’s right, it’s none of our business.”

Marcus’s laconic gaze slid over to consider her from head to toe. “I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to make it your business.”


Adam took another step forward. “Now wait a minute.”

“You’re a beautiful woman, Bonnie. All the women on the island are beautiful, but—”

“Adam, let’s go!”

“No, don’t go yet.” Before anyone could blink, Marcus had pulled a pistol out of his pocket and fired. Bonnie screamed and instinctively ducked at the sound, and then heard a sickening thud just behind her. She was too frightened to turn; all she could do was stand in shock, her hands frozen halfway to her ears.

“You two are going to help me put him in the car,” Marcus said calmly. “I don’t need him, but I can’t just leave him out here on the road.”

Bonnie watched as Marie blissfully glided past her, and felt as though she had stepped into a surrealist film. She stared into Marcus’s face, and then into the barrel of the pistol that was now pointed at her. She just couldn’t seem to make sense of anything that was happening.

“It will be easier if you just do what you’re told.” Marcus’s voice was almost gentle. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to.” He waved the pistol toward the car, and Bonnie’s gaze followed the barrel. The front end of the car was fanned with blood. All she could see of Adam was his splayed legs; the rest of his body was hidden by the open car door. She couldn’t tell whether he was dead or alive. As if in a dream, she walked around the car and looked down. Adam’s eyes were open, and stared unseeing at the sky. Below his chin, his neck was nothing but a thick red stew of ligaments and gore. She couldn’t look away until Marcus poked her in the small of the back with the pistol barrel. “Come on, you get that end. He doesn’t look that heavy.” He smirked as though he’d just made a particularly clever joke.

Adam’s blood was slick on her hands. His body made a ghastly squelching sound as she and the oddly placid Marie lifted him and staggered to the car with his weight hammocked between them. Under Marcus’s watchful eye, they managed to slide the meat that had once been her husband into the back. Bonnie had a moment to consider the horror of what she had just done, before there was a sharp crack to the back of her head, and she was gone for a little while.


It was dark when she awakened, and she could hear voices somewhere close by. A smell hit her, of fresh blood and mold, a fetid closeness. She tried to move, but neither her arms nor legs would respond, and her head was a galaxy of agony when she tried to turn it. She was lying on a firm bed, and she thought she could make out a ceiling far above her, punctuated with heavy wooden beams.

She was debating the merits of either screaming for help or going back to sleep and hoping that this would all be a dream she would eventually wake up from, when she heard a door open and close. She stayed very still.

Marcus’s crooked face appeared above her, and he smiled with something almost like kindness. There was a shuffling, and Marie appeared beside him like a curious child, peering around his shoulder. Bonnie tried to make eye contact with her, to try to communicate, but there was nothing behind the girl’s eyes for her to latch onto. They looked like a doll’s eyes.

“What is this?” Bonnie managed to choke out. “Where’s Adam?”

“With my parents,” Marcus said offhandedly. “He wasn’t necessary.”

At first Bonnie had no idea what he meant, but then she remembered Jim’s pronouncement at that awkward dinner party last night. Had it been only last night? It seemed impossible. Her eyes filled with tears that spilled freely down the sides of her face.

“I don’t like unnecessary things.” As if to punctuate his statement, he raised a hand and stroked it across Marie’s cheek. Marie closed her eyes as if in ecstasy. “I’m not sure if this one here is still necessary.”

“What are you talking about?” Bonnie didn’t know if she was more disturbed by what Marcus had said or the fact that Marie didn’t react to it at all.

“Well, I have you, now.”

Sobs welled up, and Bonnie could do nothing to stifle them. She struggled against her bonds, but whatever was holding her didn’t yield. Both Marcus and Marie were looking at her with mildly amused expressions on their faces, which somehow made the whole situation even more horrific. Bonnie screamed, but her own voice just echoed uselessly back to her. Her captors’ expressions didn’t change at all. Bonnie closed her eyes and began to weep quietly.

When she opened her eyes a few moments later, the pair was still standing in the exact same pose, as though they were made of wax. At last Marcus turned to Marie. “I have some thinking to do. Go visit one of your friends.”

Marie nodded and turned smartly on her heel. Bonnie couldn’t see where she had gone, but she heard the creak of a different door opening and closing, and then a scrabbling sound, as of fingernails scratching through earth.

“There are tunnels running all underneath this island,” Marcus said conversationally. “I don’t think anyone even remembers they’re here but me.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. Bonnie tried to stretch her body away from him, but could not. The warmth of his flesh against her side was sickening.

“What do you think, Bonnie? Do you think my sister is necessary? Would you be jealous if I kept her around? Curious as to how you feel about it.”

Bonnie simply stared at him. She had no idea what he was getting at, and no idea how to answer.

“I know you’re not in the best frame of mind right now. I’m not either, to be honest. I don’t really like how things have turned out. I guess they had to turn out this way, but I’m still not happy about it.”

“Just kill me if you’re going to.” Bonnie closed her eyes again.

“You don’t understand. I don’t want to kill you. I want you to stay with me.”

Bonnie sneered at him in disbelief. “You’re going to have to kill me then. Because I won’t.” She said it with a conviction she didn’t feel.

“I know it isn’t good that I had to force the situation a little bit,” Marcus said as though he hadn’t heard her. “But I was running out of options. Even with Marie luring all the men away, the women still wouldn’t give me a chance. I know I’m not the best-looking guy, but I take care of what’s mine. I deserve something, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know,” Bonnie said, defeated.

He looked down at her thoughtfully for a moment, as if contemplating whether he should punish her for what she had said. In the end, he just shrugged. “The nice thing about Marie is that she’ll do whatever I ask. We’re family. We have a bond. You’d probably need more convincing, though.”

“Marie was trying to get away from you,” Bonnie hissed. She didn’t know if antagonizing him was wise, but she was past the point of caring.

Far from being antagonized, though, Marcus actually laughed. “My hold on her slips sometimes. I admit that. Relationships are complicated. But most of the time, I just have to…” He snapped his fingers and smiled. “Marie would kill for me. And has. How do you think I got new blood like you onto the island? I didn’t have any use for that dried-up old bitch who lived in your house. Marie went over there through the tunnels and took care of it. Then all I had to do was wait. And hope.”

“You’re all crazy.” Bonnie was tired and in pain, and wished Marcus would just smash her over the head with something and get everything over with. “Everyone on this island is crazy.” She thought briefly of Adam, of the way his face had looked staring up into the sky with his dead eyes, and then pictured him sinking to the bottom of the black lake, to take up residence with the other corpses. And ghosts, perhaps.

“Well, I can see you’re not really going to help me make a decision about Marie,” he said with a sigh. The mattress creaked as he stood. “I guess there’s one thing that could tip the odds one way or the other.” He unbuckled his belt, and began to unbutton his jeans.

“Jesus. No.” Bonnie was too weak to fight him, too horrified to even contemplate the implications of his actions. She was already starting to go to another place in her head, a place far away from here. By the time he had forced himself inside her, she had blacked out.


She was alone again when she woke. The pain was so all-consuming that she had become detached from it, as though she was standing outside herself. She was going to die here, she knew, and endure unspeakable things until then. The thought held no emotion for her at all.

Voices again, just outside the door. Marcus was speaking, though she couldn’t make out the words. After a moment, there was a female voice, a single word like a murmur of assent, and then there was a muffled gunshot.

Bonnie closed her eyes and was lulled to sleep by the faraway lap of waves.

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